Photo: elk/Erin Kornfeld and Erica Leone
Erica was born in Brooklyn and raised not too far away, in a small suburb in New Jersey. After earning her degree in Art History at Vassar College, she spent a few years touring the world as a costumer on Broadway shows, then a few more in the trenches as a sample-maker for various NYC fashion designers. She began making jewelry as a way to relieve stress after work, but before long, she had a full-fledged cult following, and after a year her hobby was her new career.
On the fly, Erica taught herself everything about the business and craft of jewelry-making. She called on creative friends for advice, and made a lot of mistakes along the way. In 2006, she moved operations from her kitchen table (her first HQ with business partner Lindsay Salmon) to a sunny studio on Chrystie Street, where now, on any given day, there are eight to ten women working together, designing, making, photographing, shipping, and promoting the line. Erica is amazed, still, that she gets to be creative and make money doing it. Her favorite thing is traveling the world—Morocco, London, and all over the United States just this year—to collect antique jewels to sell in her shop.
Erica is among the third generation of Weiners to wheel and deal in lower Manhattan. Members of her family have hauled ice, sewn fur coats, and hocked candy here over the past century. Her paternal grandmother, Mollie, was born just down the street from today’s EWJ store—hence the fine jewelry line, “1909,” named for the year of her birth. Mollie, suddenly left with two small children to raise alone in the 1950’s, faked her way into a great stenography job at St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village. The story is a little murky—she may have forged a diploma, and definitely learned stenography from a book— but the fake-it-’till-you-make-it attitude is definitely in Erica’s genes, and it’s served her well over the years.